Is stress making you overweight?*

Thursday, 13 October 2016, By Vision PT St Ives

Is adrenal stress preventing us from losing weight?

It's a common question we get asked as a Personal Trainer," Why am I not losing weight?" It's not all about the eating and exercise when it comes to losing weight. In fact, it gets a lot more complicated than that alone. 

We go through many periods in our lives when external demands on us get heavier and our stress load increases. There may be a number of reasons as to why we are more stressed. It could be through illness, relationship difficulties, increase work load, the list is endless. Regardless of the reason, stress can have a physical impact on us emotionally, physically and mentally.

When we are stressed there are a number of physiological changes that occur. This is not to mention, the added stress of not necessary nourishing ourselves adequately to begin with.  One of those changes may be weight gain. Now, we all know this doesn't happen overnight. It is over the course of time as we continue to neglect our adrenal health that we notice our stress levels increase. This can also equate to a rise in our overall weight.

The adrenal glands and their role in weight loss.

It is our adrenal glands that govern our response to stress. They secret hormones that are relative to our stress levels. They also help to control our hormonal cycles and the function of the body. It is when our adrenal glands are overworked that the body decides" uh oh!" and begins to prepare itself for disaster. This innate physiological change known as our 'fight or flight' response begins the process of storing fat and calories.

Our body's need to preserve energy and need to store calories contributes to our cravings for energy through food. As we start to store, our expenditure of energy is limited to the precious amount needed to function - therefor storing any extra energy.

It is through stressed adrenals that our body decides to store fat rather than burn it. If you are adrenally stressed, weight loss becomes inefficient and dangerous for your overall health.

The 'Fight or Flight' Response.

Let's talk a little more about 'Fight or Flight' response. Humans have always been forced to protect themselves from environmental factors, this has been happening for millions of years. It is in life and death circumstances that humans are forced to understand danger, seek protection and even survive.

Think of it like this - imagine we are back in the caveman days. You are being chased and hunted by a predator. Your adrenal glands respond to this by releasing adrenaline and cortisol into the body beginning the process of 'Fight or Flight'. It is through any excess energy from stored sources of carbohydrates and fat that the hormones use to become more efficient and provide enough energy to respond.

Of course today circumstances are a little different (by little I mean we are not being chased by dinosaurs or hunted by fang baring predators). However, our body's natural course of evolution and response to stress continues to activate our 'Fight or Flight' response today.

Regardless of the type of stress be it physical or not, with any increase in stress our body will immediately look for stored fuel and replenish it once used. With increased levels of cortisol when stress, our body does not response to our 'feeling full' hormone, leptin. Resulting in eating more and creating a cycle of inefficiency within the body's function.

In today's world, modern stress may present itself in a more psychological form rather than physiological but it is more constant. It is for many of us a constant struggle to face each day without the chronic stress becoming part of our day to day. This constant stress and elevated levels of cortisol really do put our bodies into a spin. Our body now thinks that it required extra fuel, so it will typically store fat around the abdomen or as we know it as, the "muffin top".

 

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